Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook- Martuni Region

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Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook

Armenia - Yerevan, Aragatsotn, Ararat, Armavir, Gegharkunik, Kotayk, Lori, Shirak, Syunik, Tavush, Vayots Dzor

Artsakh (Karabakh) - (Stepanakert, Askeran, Hadrut, Martakert, Martuni, Shushi, Shahumyan, Kashatagh)

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Martuni Region consists of the branch of Artsakh which juts out of furthest to the E, almost reaches Stepanakert on the W, and goes a little past Karmir Shuka on the S. The W half has many hills and small mountains, full of small villages, while the E is very flat, with fewer villages, and the larger regional center of Martuni. The furthest parts to the E remain occupied by Azerbaijan. Historically, this area was known as Myus Haband, then Varand.

1. South to Karmir Shuka and from there to Chartar

From Stepanakert, heading S on the main North/South highway towards Hadrut, take the turnoff towards Khachmach while still in Askeran province. At the fork right under/before Khachmach, go right SE for 2.75km to the left turn NW up to the restored 18c hilltop Shoshka Vank ☆ ⟪39.750843, 46.90133⟫ with small church and gavit, ornamented-carved veils on the windows, and memorial inscriptions in the praying-hall, and a khachkar-bay with 4 khachkars. Another 1.75km past the Shoshka Vank turnoff is Msmna (71p, Մսմնա; Ağbulaq in Az.), with a 16c Surb Astvatsatsin church renovated in the 19c. 2.5km N of Msmna is Kavahan (123p, Կավահան, also Gavakhan or Ghavakhan; Gavahın in Az.) village. First known as Kavan because of its history with clay and ceramics (Kav meaning clay), it was later renamed Gavahan, then Kavahan. Built of chipped stone, Surb Astvatsatsin is the village’s one-nave, basilica church with a vaulted cover and khachkars. The church inscription reads: "This church is built in 1871 by means of Gavahan's community". There was another church of 1546 built of trimmed stone where the school stands today. It was torn down and a school was built from its stone, on its foundation. Two of the five nearby cemeteries are very old, with ornamented and inscribed khachkars - one 19-20c cemetery lies on the E side of the village, and another 18-20c cemetery known as Kyona Hangist (Քյոհնա հանգիստ) lies on the N edge of the village. On the S edge of the village is Sheni Aghbyur spring of 1906. In front of village is Sorpin Doshi forest, where in 1918 armed villagers defeated Turkish military units which had entered Varanda. Kavahan like its neighboring village of Nngi was famous for its potter workshops and skillful potters. There is a 13-19c Ptkesi Berki chapel with khachkars about 700m W of Kavahan village, atop the forested hill "Aghbri or Sorben tosh". The Vishki Tumb tombfield (Վիշկի թումբ) dating to the 2-1 millennium BC is approx 1.2km NE of the village.

Continuing S, 3km after Sarushen (in Askeran Region), take a right turnoff, then a left over a bridge 2km later for Sargsashen (264p, Սարգսաշեն; Çağadüz in Az.) with a working water mill ☆ grinding flour just across the bridge on the right (W) side which you can enter to visit if there is someone on site. The village also has a Surb Astvatsatsin church, and a cemetery with richly ornamented gravestones, including the 1814 tombstone of "Prince Petros - the grandson of military leader of liberation army of Syunik Ter Avetis". The Khlishin Dzor cemetery (Խլիշին ձոր) on the S edge of the village has burials dating from the 12-21c. On the SE edge of the village is the 3 millennium BC to Middle Ages site of Jaghaduz (Ջաղադուզ) fort-settlement.

In the area around the village are:

  • Shinategh village ruins - 11-17c village and cemetery ruins with khachkars, 1km W of of Sargsashen, by the middle stream of the Lvats River.
  • Hayrumants Gyune holy place - dating from 2 millennium BC to 17c, is 1.2km W of Sargsashen
  • Yeghtsun Khut cemetery (aka Yeghtsu Khut). Is situated above Shrshran spring, in the Shrshran glukh (Shrshran head) area about 1km SW of Sargsashen. Has numerous gravestones and remainders of constructions. Dates from 2-1 millennium BC to 17c. Overgrown.
  • Koku: large area S of Sargsashen. W slope of the high hill has noticeable traces of ruined buildings (and now mulberry gardens). Under the tall plane-tree there is a spring. Numerous pieces of khachkars dated 12-14c are scattered.
  • Khachen Khut: S of village, where Varanda and Lvats confluence and make a small cape bordered by deep ravines. In rainy weather a spring on the S slope begins to flow. A khachkar with a unique artistic design once stood here.
  • Khachen Tak (under the cross, also has another name) - Situated by Shenin spring. Here stands a khachkar of average size, placed in 1257. The natives believed it to “bring sun and rain”.
  • Surb Astvatsatsin Church or Zham - Three-nave basilica with vaulted cover was located on a tall cliff, S of the village. It collapsed in 1960’s, with the church-stone serving as building material for the local eight-grade school-building.
  • Tandzi Aghbyur spring-monument - on N side of the village, by the roadside.
  • Bulvants Dzor ☆ - a very picturesque canyon of the Varanda river by Sargsashen. Once famous for numerous mills. Now the remains of the Aghans, Aslanants, Bulvants and other family mills slowly crumble. Mills were also built on Lvats river. Only accessible by foot, the Janapar Trail goes through this canyon.
  • Gyoka ruined church - between Sargsashen and Taghavard villages, on the right bank of river Kyondalan.

From Sargsashen a poor road continues S to Zardanashen (92p, Զարդանաշեն; Zərdanaşen in Az.) with an 18-19c Surb Astvatsatsin church, and 1km E to Taghavard (1293p, with upper and lower parts, Թաղավարդ; Tağaverd in Az.), before looping back to the highway. Taghavard is divided into two parts - Verin (upper) and Nerkin (lower). The village church, according to the squared beam inscription of the door, is named Surb Astvatsatsin, built 19c. It's a three-nave basilica, with four-pillar vaulted gable roof. Another three-nave basilica church is about a half km from the village, in Gyune Bagh field, probably rebuilt in 17-18c. The walls are from untrimmed granite and lime-mortar. Verin Taghavard has a 19c basilica with gable roof, that was used for many years as storage. The SW part of the village has cave-dwellings and remainers of earthen houses either built of or dug in clay. Somewhere in the villages is the 17-18c Churvish holy place (Չուրվիշ). There is a 14-16c Shinateghi Art cemetery on the S edge of the village. 2km W of the village is the 11-12c Gyok chapel and 9-13c cemetery of the same name.

Taghavard village has a large number of spring-monuments: Tas Aghbyur, Derin Aghbyur, Minasants, Rusen, Khudun, Yeghiayin, Plplan, Pshin, Tsllok, Sheshma, Saghunts, Yghonegi, Karmir, Shoren, Katnaghbyur, etc.

There are many large and small mausoleum-hills stretching along the banks of the river flowing by Taghavard. Another cluster of mausoleum-hills stretches along the low stream of the Kyondalan river.

In the upper part of the road from Taghavard to Shekher, on a plain enclosed by woods remains the half-destroyed Brdahonj church (also called Berdahonj) with adjacent 17c khachkars. It is encircled with semi-preserved double-ramparts and towers. The church was probably a one-nave basilica, with some trimmed stone remnants indicating a medieval period. Narrow stone stairs go down to the fort's underground areas, which have filled with earth over time. According to the state list of monuments it is 8-14c and located 4km SW of Taghavard.

Barevatsari Vank ("Greeting trees monastery", also known as Jukht/Jokht Pravatsari Vank - Ճոխտ պռվածառ) - A holy place with the ruins of a buried monastery whose original name is lost are situated on the mountain ridge about 1.5km S or SW of Verin Taghavard village. There is a buried church or two encircled with the remainders of ramparts, which served as the summer residence of the Amaras Monastery monks. One church is thought to date to the 11-12c, while the other church and a gavit date to the 16-17c. Tradition says that every time a resident bishop returned from a long travel and he then conducted mass, the surrounding trees would bow their heads three times as a greeting. In 1844, when villagers decide to build a chapel over a khachkar found on the ground, their digging revealed the earth-covered church. The khachkar appears to be one of the numerous wall-khachkars of the large convent, which somehow remained on the surface.

Near Taghavard is a field known as Kaler, with Patants Khach, a sacred flat stone with a cross carving. In the past, when the local people wanted rainy days, they poured water on the cross, and for sunny days they made fire on it.

Reservoirs and noticeable traces of numerous buildings and can be found at Hin Ghala Fort, 5km SE of Taghavard, on top of a woody hill. 3km E of the fort, on a woody hill are the remainders of an ancient church and adjoining cemetery. The gravestones with 13c inscriptions are covered with reliefs.

From lower Taghavard, looping back to the highway places you squarely in Karmir Shuka (904p, Կարմիր Շուկա; Qırmızı Bazar in Az.) with Jokhtak church, and nearby Surb Gevorg pilgrimage site.

From Karmir Shuka, there is a road heading N up the hill to Skhtorashen (19p, Սխտորաշեն; Şıx Dursun in Az.) and its famous 🌲 2,000 year old Tnjri tree ☆35 (Platanus orientalis, or Oriental Plane Tree) with nearby 19c spring of the same name. The tree dates back to the time of Christ and was the oldest tree in all of the USSR. The tree has a hollow with 44m2 of space, and which can fit a hundred people, has a height of 54m (18 stories), girth of 27m, and the shadow it casts is 1400m square. By the tree is Tnjru spring, which has served the tree well and once worked a water mill. A couple of km NW of Karmir Shuka are some turnoffs leading N up bad dirt roads about 2km first to the ruins of 15-19c Old Skhtorashen village, with a S Astvatsatsin church of 1731 which has an 18c inscribed stone, and 16-19c cemetery. Nearby are the ruins of Blblak village.

Less than 1km N of Skhtorashen is what remains of the old 16-20c Armenian village of Mavas (Մավաս), with Yerek Mankunk church (of 1854 according to Mkrtchyan and 17c according to Artsakh's Ministry of Culture), and nearby ruins of 13c fortified Mavas Monastery, original name lost, also called Mamas monastery, it was sometimes used or remembered as a fort. Mavas stood out with its defense constructions, thanks to which it at the same time served as a fort which played a role in organizing defense of the local population. All that remain are collapsed sections of the wall, which once stretched from one cliff to the other and encircled the whole complex. From Mavas Monastery itself remains the three-nave church, ruins of the adjacent vestibule and vestiges of a number of dwellings. The church’s gable roof recently collapsed. Two highly artistic khachkars are placed under the altar, and there is a burial-vault with four ornamented gravestones. A relief picture of an eagle stretching its wings was in the church-yard until the end of 1960's. On the high slopes of the mountain-ridge, stretching along the right side of wide Amaras valley, is a second monastery known as Shoshk monastery.

Continuing S on the highway, just past Karmir Shuka you come upon a major turnoff left to a large number of villages, the largest of which is Chartar. The first turnoff on that road is to the left, and leads to Herher (577p, Հերհեր; Qarqar in Az.), with Surb Asvatsatsin chapel in 17-19c Asttson (Աստծոն) cemetery. In the center of village is Grigoris Church ☆, built in 1667-1676 by order of Catholicos Petros under the leadership of Archbishop Barsegh Gishetsi. According to narrative sources and epigraphic inscriptions carved on the walls of the church, Herher for many years served as summer residence for Amaras monastery's monks. The well-preserved church is a four-pylon domed basilica, with trimmed stone exterior. The altar was destroyed in Soviet times while turning the church into a storage building. The inscription that was destroyed along with the altar said: "With Christ's blessings, I, Bishop Barsegh, student of Catholicos Petros, and my parents Agha and Gulagha, rebuilt the radiant holy seat of Amaras: encircled (it) with walls of numerous rooms, decorated and made the church luxurious. They ordered a church built named St. Grigoris (as) a cool-house of Amaras's holy seat, and transferred here part of it's powers and land-borders. And the cathedral was founded in 1667 and finished in (the summer of) 1676". Remainders of Hin Herher (Old Herher) stretch 1km E of Sos village, situated on Lusavorich mountain's slope.

Tsovategh (149p, Ծովատեղ, "Place of the sea"; Zavadıx in Az.), name thought to be a nod to the small reservoir, with a well-preserved domed church that according to Mkrtchyan is the 17c Lusavorich church and according to the government is the 19c Surb Astvatsatsin, with 17c khachkars plus one dating to 1254. Another khachkar elsewhere in the village (near Andrey Avagyan's home) also dates to the 13c and is known as Derunts khachkar. On the E side of a hill SE of the village is Karmir Yekeghetsi (Red Church) of 1621, with the ruined Melik Pashayan family's underground mausoleum, with 10-13c inscribed khachkars by it as well. The mausoleum consists of underground chambers. There were once many villages in the vicinity, one of which was Kozich - the residence of the Melik Pashayans, ruler of S Varanda. Traces of Kozich can be found on the slope below Tsovategh and Kherkhan, especially semi-buried tombstones and ruins of a church. Near Tsovategh are the Pilin Pos village remains, where an excavated bronze bowl, rings, ear-rings, bracelets, and black shiny pitchers were found and taken to museums for display.

Kherkhan (106p, Խերխան; Xərxan in Az.) is just NW past Tsovategh at the end of the road, an even smaller reservoir along the way. There's a Surb Gevorg village church and the 19c Jheshtats (Ժեշտած) spring monument. 1km NE of the village is an 11-14c cemetery known as Khachkar, with at least one notable khachkar dating to the 11-12c.

The next turnoff on the road to Chartar is a left leading to Kolkhozashen (302p, Կոլխոզաշեն; Arpadüzü in Az.), with 19c Surb Astvatsatsin church and adjacent khachkar from 1271, two from the 17c and one dating to 2007. Traces of the former Shinategh village a bit above the village. Nearby Tertni cemetery with untrimmed gravestones. Perites (also Peretesa, Perets, Britis) village ruins dating to 15-17c are 1.5km SW of the village, between Kolkhozashen and Msmna, with a 17c church, another 17c chapel and 15-17c cemetery with tombstones around it. Much of the village has been ploughed under fields, except for some small mounds covered in bushes formed from the ruins of old structures. 1.5km NW of Kolkhozashen is the 10-12c Jrataper holy place, with two khachkars dating to that period. 1.6km S of the village is Yeganants water mill.

The next left is to Kert (549p, Քերթ; Quzumkənd in Az.), with 19c Surb Gevorg basilica church and adjacent 17c khachkars. To the E there are nearby Karavech village ruins. In the vicinity of Kert is a place called Tatunts Tap where traces of the destroyed Karmir Avetaran chapel are found, it's stone subsequently used in other construction. On the impregnable northern top of Mt. Rsk'han (Ռսկհան) is built a well-preserved chapel. On the northern slope of the mountain is the preserved Chiku (or Chika) Tak chapel (or perhaps just khachkar), at a spot called Arabi Tap, where according to legend, Arab forces once made camp. There was once gigantic platan tree here, which was felled by a lightning bolt. In the Galeren Tap area cells and various buildings were discovered. S is the Kaghnun Yal area, with noticeable traces of an ancient settlement. Some believe this was the residence of Varanda's princes, who had separated from Dizak. The left immediately after Kert is to Karahunj (173p, Քարահունջ; Qarahonç in Az.), with old cemetery nearby. The ruins of Darahoj village, also known as Hin Karahunj or Kyohna Karahonjenyal are situated 2km W of Karahunj, on the slope of Mt. Rsk'han. Part of the settlement's territory is plowed, but clear traces of constructions remain in the top section of the field. Atop the mountain near Karahunj is a sacred place of pilgrimage, with remains of a chapel and some khachkars.

The next two turnoffs to the right both lead to Sos (1011p, Սոս; Şuşikənd in Az.), with 19c Surb Gevorg church and the 1902 Tevosants spring monument. On the E edge of the village is the 5-6c Surb Lusavorich pilgrimage site. From Sos, a road continues 1.5km SE to Machkalashen (576p, Մաճկալաշեն; Cütçü in Az.). From Machkalashen, a road continues 3km SE to Amaras Monastery ☆35+ ⟪39.68373, 47.05732⟫. Destroyed and rebuilt many times over the years, today it is a relatively simple complex, with a disproportionately important role in Armenian history - and especially that of the Armenian alphabet. According to old manuscripts, St. Gregory the Illuminator founded a monastery here in the beginning of the 4th century, which was completed by his grandson Bishop Grigoris, who is buried here. In the 330’s, this had already become the seat of the bishop, and remained an important religious center until the 19c. The monastery was destroyed the same century it was built, probably during the battle of Vardanants. At the end of the same century Hayaghvank's King Vachagan Barepasht completely repaired the temple. When Mesrop Mashtots came to eastern Armenian regions, he began teaching the new Armenian letters in Amaras, and opened the very first Armenian school there. During the first period of Arabic invasions, Amaras was again destroyed. Rebuilt again in the 9c. under Dizak's Prince Yesayi Abu-Muse's patronship, it prospered once again. In 1223 Tatar-Mongols looted the wealth of Amaras, among the loot was St. Grigor's crozier and a golden cross ornamented with 36 stones left from 4c. According to historian Stepan Orbelyan, Greek Emperor Despina's daughter's (married to the Mongol confiscator) had the cross and the crozier sent to Constantinople? (Կ. Պոլիս). Again in 1387, like dozens of Artsakh's churches, Amaras was levelled by the forces of Lenk-Temur. It was rebuilt soonafter and further work was done on the monastery in the second half of 16c by Bishop Peros’ (Glshetsian) efforts, and a summer-temple was built for it in Herher village. Ramparts were added in the 18c by Varanda’s Prince Shahnazar. These ramparts consisted of many rooms, cells and other auxiliary constructions. In 1858 Amaras was completely restored by efforts of the people of Shushi, causing a loss of many of the old inscriptions. In the second quarter of the 19c Amaras served as a customs house. Caravans going from the orient stopped here en route to Russia or to other European countries. The monastery at one time owned many lands, water-mills and summer-cottages. The martyr St. Grigoris' underground mausoleum is situated under the stage of the present church. The mausoleum has an entry to the S (wall opposite these stairs is ornamented) and a closed off one on the E. In the mausoleum is St. Grigoris' tombstone, a focus of pilgrims. On the tombstone are carved a Bishop’s mitre, crosier and cross. The following inscription is on the tombstone: "The mausoleum of St. Grigor of Aghvan, the grandson of the Catholicos, and St. Grigor Lusavorich of Parthia. Born in 322, annointed in 340, and died in 348. Sanesan King Mazgtats from Dərbend brought to Amaras these sacred relics to the hands of the new bishop of Artsakh". The present three-nave basilica church of Amaras was built in 1858, and is quite different from the domed church that Jalalyants describes in the 17c. Until its last renovation the roof had three rotundas, the largest in the center. The convent is in the center of 5m high ramparts with round towers at each corner. Into the ramparts are built many rooms for dwelling and auxiliary uses. The large space inside the ramparts is divided into two yards. In the center of the W yard is St. Grigoris church. The dining-room and the two-story building of the abbot are situated on the S wall. The smaller E yard housed a shed, the stable and storage. The only entry into the compound (NE corner) opens into the small yard. Hasatryan points out that this allowed an additional layer of defense, since any force breaching the outside entry must also get past the second gate (now destroyed) which separated the two yards. Though it was completely ruined in the 16c by Osman Turks, the Early Medieval town of Amaras had great significance. That large settlement, the traces of which still remain, stretches on the right and left banks of river Amaras flowing near the ramparts of the monastery. On the E and W side there are two cemeteries, one in an area called Khol, the other on Kznapat hill. Many of the present monastery structures were built from the stone of this settlement. Back on the road to Chartar, the road takes you directly to Chartar (2161p, Ճարտար; Güneyxırman in Az.) itself. Chartar consists of Ghuze (northern) Chartar, Ghuze Kaler, Gyute (eastern) Chartar and Gyune Kaler villages. These villages lie 1-1.5 km from each other and are situated in between two mountain-ridges which rise up on three sides while the forth side to the E is open. The large gardens and grain fields begin at this opening, which form a continuation of the Artsakh valley. On the NW side of Chartar is situated a huge mainly natural fort, on top of the citadel of which still remain the ruins of Nahatak (martyr) chapel. The village has a number of historic spring-monuments, including Mote Jur, Tsrva Jur, Gover Aghbyur , Esla, and Elazin. Chartar has a Late Medieval style Amenaprkich basilica of 1787, with a 17c khachkar. The other villages have later churches that are undated. The cultural palace of Chartar resembling a smaller pink tufa version of Yerevan's Opera house is by architect Gevorg Tamanyan, son of Yerevan Opera architect Alexander Tamanyan. On the S edge of the village is the 17-18c Chaghal fountain, on the W edge of the village is Kor Kahriz fountain of 1865, and 2km W of that is another fountain of 1865 called Tkerne (Թքեռնե). To the south of the village is Yeghishe mountain, on the slopes of which isYeghishe Monastery. 4.5km NE of the village is 10-13c Kohak church with one 9c and two 13c khachkars. A 10-12c khachkar is found about 2.5km W of the village. There are a few previously inhabited sites near Chartar. Shinategh is the most remarkable, where many clay and copper dishes, traces of buildings, graves, etc. have been found. It is situated S of Chartar, 200m NW of Yeghishe convent. In addition there were Mravi Tagh, Kyamala Aghbyur, and Ghalin Khut, which were not permanent living-places, but rather temporary protective places to hide from enemy attacks. Shahen Mkrtchyan gives seemingly contradictory location information about a vast 150 hectare ruined settlement in the area, saying both that it is in the surroundings of Chartar village, and also saying it is 15km SE of Amaras, the latter of which places it rather far from Chartar and somewhere very close to the modern ruins of Varanda/Fizuli. Accidentaly discovered in 1965, the remainders of buildings, domestic objects and work instruments have been found, among which stand out broken or whole huge 2m high pitchers with grape seeds and dry wine sediment found inside. From the crude examinations of these objects scientists came to the conclusion that the settlement most like was destroyed no later than the middle of the first millennium (BC), because neither foreign (Greek, Roman) nor Armenian appear to mention it. From Chartar, a road WNW leads to Ghuze Chartar (1677p, Ղուզե Ճարտար; Güneyçartar in Az.) with 19c Surb Gevorg church and Motejur spring dating to the year 1900 on the W edge of the village. From here, hiking up steep slopes to the W is the territory of the Ghlen-Khut Fort (Chartar Fort) ruins ⟪approx. 39.7546, 47.002736⟫ between Gishi, Mushkapat and Chartar villages, on top of a large mountain. The S side is impregnable rocks, the other sides had been encircled with strong ramparts, traces of which remain, with other ruins in the surroundings. Below the fort are ancient caves, included in the protective complex of the fort. Also in the vicinity of the village is the 9-13c Vahanants Tap cemetery with khachkars. Yeghishe Monastery ☆ (aka Ghsha Vank) ⟪39.73907, 47.015⟫, is a basilica with ruined ramparts 1.2km SW of Ghuze Chartar. The edges have trimmed stone, the remainder is untrimmed granite with many carved khachkar and tombstone fragments and other stones reused from older buildings. People were already making pilgramages to the church on the site in the 12c, but that was ruined and the current church seems to have been rebuilt in 1655 by master Gabriel thanks to Hovhan precepter and his youngest son Hovhan (Հովհան աբեղայի և իր որդեգիր կրտսեր տեր Հովհան). In the large vestry of the church, under the stage is situated the virgin Yeghishe's mausoleum. On a rise near the church is an old cemetery with many khachkars and tombs dating as far back as the 13c. Heading directly N from Chartar leads to Khnushinak (Խնուշինակ; Xanoba in Az.) with 19c Surb Astvatsatsin village church, nearby traces of old settlements including those of 17-19c Old Khnushinak a half kilometer W, ruins of religious constructions, 5km E on a rise is the ruined chapel of Kohak, on the right side of the Chartar-Martuni road (see Chartar village for more). Past Khnushinak is Gishi (1207p, Գիշի; Kiş in Az.). Gishi has nearby ancient settlements, potter workshops remains, burials under small hills and also in pitchers, stone boxes and sarcophagi. Gishi's secondary school had/has a museum displaying the pitchers, baked dark-colored jars, ornamented jugs, porcelain dishes, different kinds of beads, dried seeds of grape, grains of wheat and millet discovered in the ancient places of Ghlen Khut (4-16c fort-settlement), Bəbəhaj (same as Բբջամալ/Bbjamal holy place? On the W edge of the village), Kolin Khut, Khotahat and Uzumi. Near Gishi's 16-18c Voske Khach (golden cross) village spring and holy place on the SW edge of the village is the ruined Voske Khach church and 19-20c cemetery with a standing khachkar. There is also a Surb Minas church in the village. 600m SE of the village is a Middle Ages cemetery. 800m W of the village is Bbjamal (Բբջամալ) spring, built in 1959. 800m S of the of the village are Shrmana Kerts tombs from the 2-1 millennium BC, and the nearby Late Middle Ages Shrmana Kar fort. After these two villages the road N connects to the direct road from Stepanakert to Martuni, which may provide easier access, it's best to ask road repair conditions before heading out. Back at the N-S highway continuing S, you will reach a crossroad, where going straight takes you off the highway and heads on a direct road to Jivani (145p, Ջիվանի), and turning right to continue S on the N-S highway takes you to Shekher (406p, Շեխեր; Şəkər in Az.), the last village before exiting Martuni region, with Surb Vardan church, two 17c khachkars in the village and an active 16-17c Pir Bab (Փիր բաբ) holy site with khachkar along the marked Janapar Trail heading S above the village. 2. Along the direct road from Stepanakert to Martuni Heading from Stepanakert on the most direct route towards Martuni, passing Ajapnyak and then Krasni village in Askeran region, the first village in Martuni Region is Nngi (369p, Ննգի; Cəmiyyət in Az.). Nngi has been famous for its potters and gardeners since ancient times. The workshops were not far from the village cemetery, in a fruit garden, by deposits of high quality clay, and there was a ceramics market which brought buyers from a wide area for the decorated pitchers, pots, cups and jars. Poghos Khachunts and his brothers Petros and Mughan were known as master ceramicists, and their tradition was followed more recently by ceramicist Amirbar Sahakyan. In the early 2000s pottery production was brought back by an American ceramicist for a few years before again ceasing. Nngi's Surb Astvatsatsin church is a 3-nave basilica on four slender pylons, with khachkars set into the walls. Inscriptions indicate an 1858 (or 1895) construction, but ancient traces show it was built in the place of another, older church. The church once had a 40-pound bell. From the church treasures remain a large copper pot, plates and silver spoons. There also remains a hand-written gospel with a silver cross on the surface. The khachkar put under the bay in western facade is dated the summer of 1523. The tombstone in the eastern wall is dated 1777. There are other khachkars, including an important 13c khachkar by Surb Astvatsatsin. 5km W of Nngi are the ruins of an 18-20c settlement named Nngjan, with a church situated in the center of the settlement, on a cliff. It was built in 1895 by sponsorship of Khatunents Muki and Avetis Gabrielyan. It's a one-nave church with khachkars placed in the walls. There is an adjacent 15-20c cemetery also known as Nngijan. The ruined church of Surb Lusavorich is situated at the foot of Mt. Tsarekh. Among its ruins is a khachkar, put, according to the inscription in the summer of 1225. In front of Grigor Lusavorich' chapel there is a square stone with a relief of a crow. The local inhabitants revere it as a sacred place and call it Agravakar (crow-stone). There may be the ruins of a Tsarekh chapel on the mountain of the same name - once a simple one-nave basilica. Traces of ancient cemeteries are also found in places known as Chəntərmkhach, Ərtsaghpyurand Mknakert. Near the village was an ancient settlement known as Surb Ojakh with the cemetery containing many nicely carved khachkars. On the S edge of Nngi village is Əlaja Jur (Ըլաջա ջուր) memorial-spring of 1912. 4.3km W of the village is Mirzabekyants memorial-spring of 1923. The 18c Kyughants Ojakh people's house (jhoghovrdakan tun) is located in the village. Nngi's ravine has the remains of 22 mills, including Kolatak mill of the 19c, found 3.5km SE of the village. Bogdan Knunyants, a Bolshevik revolutionary from the area based himself from the mills to operate an opposition press at the start of the 20c. He was also active in St. Petersburg and Moscow, eventually jailed in Baku and dying in prison before the revolution. In the vicinity of Nngi are the remnants of several old villages: • Shen (NE of Nngi) – ruins of house of Pitsi Tyununts (younger Harutyun) • Ghahramanants and Ghasumants - stone glkhatuns, economic and cult construction ruins. • Yeghtsots (church lands) - ruins of an 11-17c settlement with a 12 or 13c one-nave basilica, ornamented chapel, scattered ornamented stones, khachkars. • Artsaghbyur (next to Yeghtseogh) - ruins of the church and gravestones. • Kolatak (2.5km SE and below Nngi, E of ravine of mills, in Tlants Chkhpor pine forest) - 16-17c village. Noticeable traces of two churches, carved khachkars and gravestones. Not to be confused with the village of Kolatak near Gandzasar. • Ilajajur (SW part of Nngi) - traces of chapel, houses, gravestones. • Mknaker (Մկնակեր, 1.7km W of Nngi, E foot of Mt. Bovrkhan) - 16-17c village ruins with Anahit Chapel. Continuing E on the main road beyond Nngi is the right turnoff to Kavahan and Msmna, which are likely better accessed via Askeran's Khachmach village as detailed above. Back on the main road, the next turnoff left is also to these two villages. 5km past Nngi, you hit a turn-off to your left, leading N 1km to Paravatumb (171p, Պառավաթումբ; Qarıtəpə in Az.), with Surb Astvatsatsin village church and a Lusavorich church on the mountain in the continuation W of the village. Nearly adjacent is Kaghartsi (319p, Կաղարծի; Qağartsi in Az.). 3-nave basilicaSurb Targmanchants vank in the village, primarily of roughly trimmed stone. In the early 1900’s the church’s relic-place contained an ancient silver cross and an illustrated Gospel. From the gospel’s record pages we know that the Gospel was copied by Hovanes "...on Aghtamar Island... during the time of patriarch Zakaria and in the summer of Ancient Armenian chronology 926 (1477 in our current calendar) in a hard and scornful period". This gospel went missing, but was later bought by a deacon who offered it to the Monastery of Gandzasar. At the N edge of the village is a 2-1 millennium BC burial field, known as Karmir Kerts. On a hilltop 1.4km NW of the village is a half-destroyed 9-13c chapel known as Matte (Մատթե) sacred place. 1.2km S of Kaghartsi is the Lusavorich church of 1811, with a cemetery of the same name containing many 12-18c khachkars. Continuing E on the main road to Martuni, you hit the village of Varanda (67p, Վարանդա, aka Honashen, Gharadaghli/Qaradağlı in Az) on the road, followed soon by the right turnoff to Haghorti (227p, Հաղորտի, Kendkhurd in Az) with Surb Astvatsatsin church of 1751, and the 16-17c Okhtə Khach holy place. The following right turnoff soon after is to Mushkapat (348p, Մուշկապատ, aka Moshkapat; Müşkapat in Az.), with 17c Surb Astvatsatsin church and 17c khachkar found to the right of the entrance, as well as a Zoravar Vardan church. The village also has a 17-20c cemetery and a bridge built in 1915. Near the village spring is the ruined church of Ojakh, with large and small khachkars, and 3km NE is Hachaləgh (Հաչալըղ) memorial-spring dating to 1975. From Mushkapat, a road loops back to the main Martuni road, which is shorter if you're just going to that village. The next two turnoffs left from the main road lead to another string of villages - the first of these is the shortest route to Spitakshen (422p, Սպիտակաշեն; Ağkənd in Az.). Near Spitakashen, in the NW is the territory of an old village, and on a small plain there is a church which for many years had served as a club. That large and high construction was built of local untrimmed stone in the 19c. Over the hill N of Spitakashen is Yemishjan (164p, Եմիշճան; Yemişcan in Az.), with Surb Stepanos church. There are ruins of Jarga Marag (Ջարգա Մարագ, also known more properly as Amenaprkich), a ruined chapel between Spitakashen and Yemishjan villages, on top of Jargamarag hill. From here the mountain path heads NE to a Yeghtsukhut sacred place, with ancient huge untrimmed black grave-stones half-way buried in earth. The etymology of the sacred place's name indicates a lost church. After it was presumably destroyed, the locals gathered the stones and built Nor Surb or Taza Surb church (both meaning new holy), the ruins of which are again on the left side of the road leading from Spitakashen to Ashan and Yemishjan, half a kilometer S of the latter. In front of the ruins there is a conic hill named Pghndzakal, covered with remainders of destroyed constructions. All that remains standing is a khachkar. 300m S of the village is 13-14cYere Chprner (Երե չփրներ) cemetery, with a khachkar dating to that time period. From Yemishjan, a road heads directly N to reach the outskirts of Berdashen (1480p, Բերդաշեն, Ghzghala, Kzkala, Karakend, Saridash; Qarakənd in Az.), the main part of the village accessible with a right turn around the hill. In the central district of the village there is a khol, an underground dwelling, consisting of a rocky dwelling and an earthen house, dug out of the clay earth. Surb Astvatsatsin a one-nave basilica is located in the center of the village. On the tympanum of the entry there was an inscription "I, Hovanes built this church by my own means. My father is Takhtan, my mother Khonti, and Yusan, my wife Khanum, my deceased son A...". The other inscription carved on the northern wall from inside contained names of bishops Hovanes, priest Poghos, village leader Velijan and the architect of the church Kesbera Hakob. In the end of the last century in church was kept an unillustrated hand-copied Gospel with several missing pages. According to the memorable inscription the Gospel was recopied in 1623 in Aleppo by writer Avetis and sold to vendor Mahtesi Hovadegh. The latter presented the Gospel to Surb Astvatsatsin church, though the year is not mentioned. At the end of 19c M. Barkhudaryants also saw a 1671 hand-copied Mashtots bible translation in the church. There used to be a Spring ofNahapet Kuchak in the village as well. In the SW of the village is a monument to the soldiers who died in the Karabakh War. On the hill directly N of the village is a towering silver woman monument - with a now broken arm - the tallest statue in the entire Soviet Caucasus at the time, symbolizing motherland and victory - a monument to the fallen soldiers of the Great Patriotic War (WWII). In the base of the statue is a small museum of local artifacts and war memories. 1km E of Berdashen is an unfinished church, which repeated efforts to finish all failed. Construction of a chapel also started over the tomb of a martyr. In 30's the chapel was destroyed, and the stone was used for construction. It seems likely that somewhere in the vicinity of the monument is Aghchkaberd fort church (aka Kusaberd or Kzkala, most often called Berd by villagers) which according to Mkrtchyan is approximately 2.5km SW of a turnoff near the midpoint of the Aghdam-Martuni highway, by a cliff which is traditionaly called Kusaberd, i.e. Virgin Fort. (According to the government of Artsakh, about 2km NE of Berdashen village.) On the slope of the opposite mountain stretches Berdashen. On top of the cliff are noticeable remainders of serf-walls and constructions from trimmed stone, traces of destroyed beautiful pre-wall pylons and stones with cross-images. In the western part of the fort remain vestiges of three artificial reservoirs. The 0.5 to 1m sectional ceramic pipes found here brought water to the fort by a secret means from Pilek spring. There are also underground cave dwellings/constructions, created with the purpose of hiding and protection. Around the fort there were several settlements, which are mentioned in sources by a common name Hing Shen (from Arm. hing- five, shen -village). Today there are vineyards at the foot of Berd, but the former name Hing Shen has stuck, and remains can be found for each of their cemeteries, churches, memorial-springs and other structures. In Soviet times, students of the village's secondary school under the leadership of geography teacher Haykush Azaryan discovered a potter work-shop and a stove for melting metal with connecting pipes. Artsakh valley stretches E from Aghchkaberd, and a little S of it is the mountain ridge Yerkar Kar (yerkar- long, kar- stone). Just opposite rises Mets Nahatak Mountain (great martyr mountain), on top of which stands a church and a cemetery with inscribed gravestones. To get there, a left (W) from Berdashen will take you first to the turnoff - second right, heading north, straight up the crest of the hill - to the church. Mets Nahatak church ☆ ⟪39.85824, 47.0137⟫ (due to a lack of information, this could be the GPS of a different church, like Aghchkaberd for example). This one-nave basilica is situated on top of the mountain of the same name, placed between the villages of Berdashen, Ashan, Norshen, each of which ascribes the monument to it (the government assigns it to Berdashen and says it's 1km N of that village). The church is visible from far away. The stone of its walls is roughly-trimmed. From the point of view of building technique Mets Nahatak is an interesting monument of its epoch. The tomb of the martyr (without inscription) is in the church, and around it stretches the common cemetery. From the church all that has preserved are ruins of cells. The inscription on the western wall reads: "I Gharaykhans of Ghzghal built this church. My father Amirkhan and my mother Mairasn, and my brothers Sarukhan, Paghi, Babasi and my son Sargis. In the summer of [1676 ce]". Further inscriptions on the tympanum of the W entry, and on the khachkars put in the western wall. Locals call the field below the church Vardapeti Tap. A little below, on the mountain-slope stands a secular tree, one of the roots of which has so much risen over the ground that one may pass under it. According to popular belief one who passes under it will be cured of their cough. That's why they call the arch "Əkhtəl Tsar (tree which cures from stifling cough). 800m NE of Berdashen village is Pokr Nahatak chapel/holy site dating from the 2-1 millennium BC to the 20c. At the site are also 2 capitals (խոյակ - khoyak), dating from the 2-1 millennium BC to the 5c BC and the 2-1 millennium BC to the Late Middle Ages. After the turnoff to the church, the road leads to Ashan (585p, Աշան; Heşan in Az.), with Surb Astvatsatsin church (likely also called Mets Yeghitsi, or else there is a second church called that in the village. Another source places a Surb Astavatsatsin church 2km S of the village, dating to 1896 and with nearby cemetery and some 17c khachkars.), a three-nave basilica of local trimmed stone, fully-preserved. On the tympanum of the entry remain separate fragments of the inscription; "In the memory of Ta... Dastants", "In the memory of Sahak Abrahamyan". Though the date of the construction is missing, it's a typical monument of 19c. In the surroundings of Berdashen and Ashan are ruined villages, churches, cemeteries and other monuments, which are not mentioned in topographic descriptions of the area. Here are some of them: • Spitak Aghbyur (white spring). The earlier name is Surb spring. In the surrroundings are noticeable traces of settlements. • Bakmazahogh (from Arm. dialect bakmaz- mulberry must, hogh- earth). Remain barrow hills, deepenings from ruins of settlements. While making mulberry molasses the locals would place small sacks of this soil in the pot. The soil from this area is also used as abrasive for cleaning dishes. • Tsover (seas). Is situated in the southern part of the village, where two large reservoirs are situated, from which the name originates. • Ghazakhen Dara (kazak pass). In the beginning of 20c a Russian garrison stayed here. The pass was named in the honor of Russian Kazaks. • Pulkəne (clay pots). Many ceramic objects have been discovered here. Likely once the site of a settlement with potter workshops. Traces of a cemetery also remain. • Karmir Avetaran (Red Gospel) chapel. Located on the left side of the ravine that extends from old Ashan. In the past in the chapel there had been a Gospel, on the record pages of which are described events connected with Catholicos of Aghvank Nerses. • Hershen village site: Located 1km across from Ashan. Foundations of dwellings and a small cemetery with gravestones can be found. • Ghuzarter settlement: situated 3km W of Ashan, on the plateau. The ruins occupy a large territory. Separate parts of these ruins are revered as sacred by local inhabitants. -One of them is called Stepanots. In the surrounding of the other -Karahart (stony field) remains part of the ancient cemetery. Numerous archeological objects: clay vessels, pieces of glazed ceramics and other interesting objects have been accidentally found here. • Pitsi (small) Nahatak sacred place or Nlbandants. Is situated on top of Mt. Pitsi, behind Ashan, with traces of a church and other ruins. • Avetaran or Svegyants holy place. Situated on W side of Ashan.

• Kyumeren (barn) or Ashan Berd 1km from Kyumer area, on top of the highest hill of the surroundings.

• Vskakhach. In totally ruined condition, situated near Nor Ashan, on top of a hill.

• Tsets or Tsits Kar (stuck stone). An ancient village site. All that's left visible is the cemetery. • Jnhaz: An ancient, destroyed village with destroyed churches and gravestones half-way hidden under ground. • Ojakh ruined village site, situated on the large Khaner plain with numerous ruined sacred places and standing khackhars. • Nhataken Tapə (martyr's area). An ancient cemetery wtih gravestones without inscriptions. • Surb Is situated in the vicinity of Tsover, S of the village. Among the ruins have grown several huge trees. Instead of the chapel, the locals now treat the giant trees as their holy place.. Here were brought sacrifices and performed ceremonies (տոնախմբություն). Less than 1km W of Ashan is Nor Shen (347p, Նոր շեն or Norshen in one word; Yenikənd in Az.), with 19c Surb Hovhannes church. Heading W down the hill from Nor Shen, you reach a spring at the river at the bottom of the hill, 150m down from the village. In the vicinity is an old stone bridge dating to 1912. Another half kilometer on the road SW towards Hatsi village brings you to the right turnoff to the unusual Bri Yeghtsi ☆ ⟪39.8512, 46.9691⟫ complex (Բռի եղցի), with structures spread out from the bottom to the top of the hill. There are 4 small church/chapel structures, 3 khachkar monuments, some ruins and a large cemetery. The walls of the simple buildings are often covered in many khachkars and the multiple khachkar bays are also unusual. This was likely an important pagan site, preceding the current medieval period monastery. The first church, on the SE side of the hill's top is almost fully intact, quite small, and except for the W facade is built from untrimmed stone. The door casings are covered with braid carved stones with crosses inside them, and a half-round stone tympanum carved with a checker pattern. The second church joins the first one on the E. It's also a small building, built from whitish chipped stone, and has been damaged by the elements. Both the first and second churches have a common gavit attached to their W facades, a very unusual feature of this monastery. The bays of the E wall of the gavit have 6 khachkars, and the room also served also as a burial-vault. Inside the gavit, in the left corner by the S church entry there is a richly-ornamented gravestone with the inscription: "Tomb of Ter Hovanes, Karapet's son, 1798". The third church is situated on the highest part of the hill, a few steps west from the gavit. The floor of the small one-nave basilica is covered with gravestones. One is inscribed "In 1270... during Bishop Nerses' time, I, Mkhitar, son of Kh... built this cross". The W facade is richly ornamented, including the main portal, which has a cross on a background of diamonds with birds above. The rest of the facade is covered with sculptured crosses. Next to the bird's image on the N facade there is a gravestone put in the wall inscribed "Preceptor Khachenik’s sacred church; when entering remember him with Christ". The same Khachenik also built a large khachkar monument at the bottom of the hill, at the S end of the path. In the bay are four khachkars which are unfortunately damaged. S of the main complex, at the foot of the hill is the fourth and smallest church. Built of roughly-trimmed stone, the cover of the church has collapsed. The W facade is decorated with tens of khachkars of various sizes. Above the portal is a cross on checkered background with peacocks above, one on each side. The inscription on the top W corner of that wall tells us it was built in the time of Catholicos of Aghvank Hovhannes and his younger brother Catholicos Nerses, i.e. before 1235. A neighboring inscription says: "Remember (in prayers) to God, Shahen - the architect of this church". In addition to the churches are the 3 khachkar-monuments, each a small wall with rounded roof and a bay holding 4 khachkars on the W facades. Two khachkar monuments are near one another, a little above the fourth church. The third one is by the side of the cemetery, but is badly damaged. The cemetery also has numerous interesting gravestones with inscriptions and reliefs. Continuing SW half a km takes you to Hatsi (226p, Հացի; Çörəkli in Az.) with Surb Astvatsatsin village basilica in the village, probably built in the 17c atop an older church. The village school building was built in 1911 and has an interesting incription: "To the Armenian children. Let in your mouths sound for ages, Sahak, Mesrop mother tongue, Love the kind, the light, the knowledge, That take us to salvation, Gifted to the village, Jvanshir & Gilbahar Ghazian 1911". There are memorial-springs including Svega Dzoren built 1909 and Konov in the village, Anahitwith a nicely ornamented khachkar on the S outskirt of the village was also built in 1909, and a new Margarita spring 200m S of Anahit. Chaylagh spring was built in 1914, 1.2km NE of the village. The village is known widely due to the history of the 5c King Vachagan Barepasht, who's love for Anahit is part of the national folklore. On the approach to the village is the standout Maramemorial-spring, among mulberry trees. From the S end of Hatsi the road heads generally W 3.5km to Avdur (151p, Ավդուռ) with Surb Astvatsatsin church of 1874, and a 17c khachkar elsewhere in the village. About a half kilometer E of the village is Jukht Khach holy place with a 13c khachkar, and another dating somewhere between 13-17c. About 6km SW of Avdur, on the right side of the road leading to Avdur, is the Late Middle Ages to 13c Poghosen Berd. 2.6km down the road W from Avdur lands you in Myurishen (190p, Մյուրիշեն, Mirushen in Az.), with yet another Surb Astvatsatsin church, this one dating to 1869. Also in the village is the Plajur spring of 1919, and on the N edge of the village is the 18-19c Yerebagh cemetery, with Asri Kokhvayi tombstone of 1874. On the S edge of the village is the 19c Bukhoshants water mill. 300m N of Myurishen is 7-13c Orats Tumb (Օռած թումբ) fort. The 2-1 millennium BC Aghvash burial field is about 1.9km SW of the village, with the 15-17cKyirizmanot cemetery with khachkars, and a separate 15-16c Chanchanots (Ճանճանոց) khachkar in the general vicinity as well. On the mountain to the SW is Matek (Matke) chapel between Mirushen and Kaghartsi villages, on the mountain of the same name, with gravestones on four sides. Between Avdur and Myurishen is a road heading N approximate 4km to Vazgenashen (219p, Վազգենաշեն; Gülablı in Az.) with a 2-1 millennium BC tomb field 1km W, but first passing a left to ruined Varder (Վարդեր, Abdal in Az), with old church, possibly in ruins. Following these are the ruins of Gulabli. Reaching the main Martuni road, you are at a crossroads - both directions of which have been covered elsewhere. To the right takes you to Kishi, Chartar and other villages, while left takes you to Berdashen, and Ashan, among a string of villages to the north. This main road continues until it terminates at Martuni. With minor exceptions, do not go E of the main road North-South road here that connects Martakert-Akna/Aghdam-Martuni-Varanda/Fizuli, E of which there is little to see other than ruined villages and the front lines of the frozen conflict with Azerbaijan. Martuni (4775p, Մարտունի; Xocavənd in Az.) is the regional center and the largest town in the region of the same name. The town has a cultural center called the "opera" for its resemblance to the one in Yerevan - though it is smaller and of pink stone. Next to the opera is a white stone statue of Monte Melkonian flanked by palm trees. Monte, known as Avo his men, was an American-Armenian from Visalia, California, educated at Berkeley, who was jailed for his participation in the terrorist group ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia) and upon his release moved to Armenia and Karabakh, ending up fighting during Karabakh's war for independence. He became the commander in Martuni and after leading his men to many victories was killed towards the end of the war by Azeri soldiers in a freshly captured zone that was meant to have been clear. His brother Markar wrote a biography about his Che Guevara-like life named My Brother's Road. Near Martuni is a cemetery with mausoleums. A new, white trimmed stone Surb Nerses church was opened in 2004. Near a stone-mine 2km from Martuni are Bronze-Age burial hills. Just E of Martuni is the mostly ruined Kajavan (90p, Քաջավան; Əmiranlar in Az.). NE of this, well in the no-go zone is Kakavadzor (30p, Կաքավաձոր; Kuropatkino in Az.). 7km S of Martuni on the main road is a junction - a much bigger road goes W towards Chartar, and a minor road heads another 6.5km E to a roofless large white stone 20c Russian church of Gevorgavan, which should only be approached with prior permission, and possibly military escort. Almost 10km S of Zoravan village and 5km NE up a dirt road heading towards the ruins of Aşağı Veysəlli is or was the 15m high Mirali Mausoleum ⟪39.697276, 47.19796⟫, (aka Mir Ali Tomb; Mir Əli türbəsi in Az.), thought to be built in the 13-14c and closer to the front lines than it's safe to visit at this time.